Short Cuts To Hell 2 Finalist Interview: Michael Down - All Inclusive
By James Whittington, Saturday 4th October 2014

All InclusiveThis year’s Short Cuts To Hell competition saw some incredibly inventive entries.

Here we speak to one of the finalists, Michael Down who is behind the surreal and disturbing short All Inclusive.

To vote for All Inclusive click here.

HC: Where did the idea for All Inclusive come from?

MD: The idea is based on a true story. My brother and I went to Tenerife on a last minute all inclusive break a couple of years ago. The hotel we were in already had a threatening atmosphere but on the second night when out at a local bar, we had our drinks spiked, were attacked on the way home and woke up to find our apartment had been cleaned out – money, passports, everything. We had to cope with the situation while dealing with the side effects of whatever we were given, we couldn’t eat or sleep and it led us to become extremely paranoid about who had done this to us. Whether it was other guests, the staff even? The film is about that descent into that nightmare. I’ve expanded the idea to feature a young couple who book a last minute getaway to so as to heighten the juxtaposition between the idyllic and the horrific, and to incorporate deeper themes such as class, war even.

HC: Did it take long to write?

MD: The idea was already there, it was just a case of expanding it, so has not been that much of an effort. I have an excellent script advisor in my brother as he went through the original experience with me!

HC: How much of the budget did you use?

MD: I spent £450 on an all inclusive holiday in Turkey over 5 days - that is all. The budget limit we were given was £666 so as much as I would have liked to have taken someone with me I couldn’t have within these restrictions. So with the exception of a small scene at the start I was on my own throughout the whole process.

HC: The film plays like a surreal, found footage piece, was this your intention?

MD: Surreal maybe, but found footage? No. The fact that I was on my own lead me to shoot a lot of footage P.O.V but it is a style I have been developing for a while - a kind of immersive filmmaking if you like. The whole feature wouldn’t be shot in that way but I do like it, it gives a certain tone and I like the covert aspect that drags the viewer into the situation. Also the fact that they are real events being filmed rather than staged only adds to the atmosphere. The feature would be a combination of staged scenes and real life footage but has no real bearing on the found footage genre per se.

HC: Did it take long to shoot and edit together?

MD: I only had 6 days in total as I had been out of the country and only found out about the competition with a week to go. A friend said “You have to enter this” and the next day I was on a plane. I took a day to write and shoot the first scene, 4 days shooting in Turkey and one day editing - the deadline was the following day so I had to cut it in my hotel room in 42 degree heat with broken air con and my composer sending me files over the Internet. I also had to compete with the fact that there was a pool and free bar outside! It was so ridiculously last minute but somehow all just came together.

HC: What was the hardest part of creating All Inclusive?

MD: Trying to convey my idea with such limitations. I decided to take a risk and effectively make it as a trailer. Luckily some of the judges could see what I was trying to do - or were at least willing to give me a chance to explain.

HC: What did it feel like seeing your work on the Horror Channel?

MD: Great, I would have obviously would have liked more time to polish it up but feel I stands up with its own unique lo-fi quality.

HC: Do you have a plan as to how to extend this idea if it wins Short Cuts To Hell 2?

MD: Indeed, that was the point of the competition! I am hoping people can see beyond what is essentially a very raw piece of filmmaking and see how the bigger picture would develop. I have big plans that could be executed even on such a small budget. Without going into too much detail I’d have a small cast and crew and flown out to a real resort, find a suitable run-down hotel, stay there and essentially live the film!

HC: Are you working on any other projects at the moment?

MD: Yes I have two films in production that have a similar vibe. Monument is about an architecture student who goes to the Balkans to study brutalist monuments and ends up losing his mind. The other, Ritual is the story of a greedy, exploitative City banker who buys up property in Bulgaria and ends up on the wrong end of some Pagan shenanigans in return. They are kind of modern-day horror fables I guess. They both have that first-person immersive style and again have feature written all over them. I am also writing a feature script that is a very personal account of me and my friends’ relationships with our favourite horror films. It’s a pretty unique idea so don’t really want to reveal too much at this stage.

HC: Michael Down, thank you very much.

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